“This is a devastation of immense proportions and what makes it worse is the attitude of our leaders,” he says. “We have lost standing crops and grain stocks to the floods. We won’t be able to cultivate another crop for at least a year or so and then we hear that we will have floods of the same magnitude this time next year too.”

“But aren’t we going to get foreign aid?”

“Foreign aid is not forthcoming for two reasons; one, the government has lost credibility after fudging figures in the war on terror funding and two, foreign NGOs and aid agencies are scared of the Taliban as they prefer to supply aid with their own hands.

“I am sad about the devastation in Sindh, but what makes me even sadder is that we are moving towards a cataclysmic famine in the coming months,” he says. “It reminds me of the 1943 famine of Calcutta.” Bengal was hit by a cyclone that year, wiping out the rice crop. The British colonial government was facing a battle with advancing Japanese forces, as a result of which they did not pay any attention.

When the prime minister, Churchill, was informed about the food shortages, he said: “If food is so scarce, why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?” His attitude led to starvation and malnutrition, killing an estimated three million people.

Edhi saheb suddenly becomes pensive. I see a lot of similarities in today’s situation in Sindh and the Calcutta famine of 1943, he says. The colonial government could supply food to the dying Bengalis, but it paid no attention as it was more involved in the war.

It is the same case now. The federal government and even the provincial government of Sindh are not paying any attention to the catastrophe. They are more interested in playing politics over the flood. Their focus is on who gets how much out of the expected foreign aid.

Bengalis at that time died because of the government and local administration’s mismanagement. As the staples became scarce and then ran out, prices went soaring and were consequently out of the poor man’s reach.

Edhi saheb keeps talking but at one stage, the lion-hearted man breaks down as he recalls the Calcutta famine. I was just a young lad then but even I remember the mass graves. (Express Tribune)